Dec 19, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; ESPN commentator Rick Reilly on the field before the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Candlestick Park. San Francisco defeated Pittsburgh 20-3. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Commentary: Notre Dame Football Should Not Be Demoted


Every year, it seems like this debate occurs before the college football season. Is it sparked up for ratings by networks or is it a legitimate argument by people who are trying to engage in a constructive debate? Despite the belief that it is probably the former, I’ll try to engage in the later.

Yesterday, as many of you may know, a debate was sparked by a thought provoking article by ESPN columnist Rick Reilly (left). The debate was furthered by a rant from Notre Dame alum Mike Golic on Mike in Mike in the Morning. However, to summarize the Reilly’s column in one question is simple. Is Notre Dame still relevant? How many times have college football fans around the country heard that one?

Reilly’s column made a few suggestions on how the Fighting Irish football program could humble itself to the rest of the Division 1 football community. He stated that Notre Dame should no longer have a television contract, a seat at the BCS negotiating table and should no longer be hyped in the preseason.

Why would Notre Dame do something to itself that others are not also willing to do? It is no secret that college football has become big business. According to a CNNMoney.com article, in 2010, programs took in about $1 billion collectively. That is a potent amount for an amateur sport. Notre Dame is simply grabbing their piece of the pie.

When Notre Dame signed its television deal with NBC, it was the first of its kind. But today’s landscape is littered with teams and conferences that have their own network deals. Both Texas and BYU have their own television channels. The Big Ten Network and Pac 12 Network are regional networks that cover their respective conferences. These deals generate tremendous revenue for the schools. They are simple business deals.

Despite the resentment towards Notre Dame’s football, they are still relevant. How do I know? The fact that we are having this conversation. This debate is somewhat of an oxymoron. With this discussion reaching a fever-pitch on ESPN.com and ESPN Radio, it is clear that the vast majority of people care about the fate of Notre Dame football, for better or worse.

Notre Dame should not have to apologize for being one of the powers of college athletics. They have earned it just like the other top programs in the country. Oregon, TCU and Boise State are mentioned as having a better records than Notre Dame since 2000. The difference between Notre Dame and those schools is vast. Combined those three schools have won 2 national titles, one Heisman trophy and have had 27 All-Americans. In comparison, Notre Dame has won 11 national titles, 7 Heisman trophies and has featured 96 All-Americans.  Notre Dame has such a substantial base that cannot so easy wipped off the face of the Earth as many would want. Obviously, a time may come when Notre Dame ceases to be relevant. The base that they have created for themselves may completely erode. However, that time has not occurred yet. Until it arrives, Notre Dame should and will continue to accept everything that is bestowed upon them by others. If you don’t like it, tough. This is college football.

Tags: Notre Dame Rick Reilly

  • Alum

    “The difference between Notre Dame and those schools is vast. Combined
    those three schools have won 2 national titles, one Heisman trophy and
    have had 27 All-Americans. In comparison, Notre Dame has won 11 national
    titles, 7 Heisman trophies and has featured 96 All-Americans.”

    His point this history you speak of was decades ago and no one cares about national titles from last century. Compare their records since 2000.

    The difference between TCU, Boise State, Oregon, etc. and ND isn’t the playing on the
    field, its the size of the fan base. ND is more popular than any other
    college football team. That is why they get a special pass, not
    because of what they did on the field last century.

    Regardless, I agree with Golic that this isn’t ND’s fault. If the BCS and NBC continue to provide it special status, nothing is going to change. I suspect the minute NBC drops ND, ESPN or some other network will pick it up.